United Adds Emilio For Finishing Touch

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

D.C. United's acquisition of Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio yesterday will not have the same public-relations punch as English superstar David Beckham's arrival in Los Angeles. It will not send season ticket sales soaring or attract global media attention.

That is fine with United. All the club wants from him is to fill an attacking void and score bunches of goals.

"His style of play is very athletic, he's fast, he's got a nose for the goal," United Coach Tom Soehn said during a news conference yesterday at RFK Stadium. "All those qualities are what's truly needed in our league and what survives in our league.

"Everything is up to him, but the opportunity is there for him to be special."

Emilio, who turned 28 last month, signed a four-year contract that includes three team-held option years. Terms were not disclosed, but sources familiar with MLS salaries estimated Emilio will earn $200,000 per season -- 50 times less than Beckham's reported playing salary of $10 million. (Beckham could earn tens of millions more through marketing and profit-sharing opportunities.)

Emilio exercised a clause in his contract with his previous club, Olimpia of Honduras, that essentially made him a free agent and allowed United to sign him without a transfer fee.

He is the first of possibly three South American imports to join United this winter following the club's decision to trade several veterans, including Freddy Adu and Alecko Eskandarian. Through those trades and other deals last year, United stockpiled more than $600,000 in player-acquisition funds.

Set to start alongside team captain Jaime Moreno, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Emilio will wear uniform No. 11 -- Eskandarian's old number.

"Obviously, I don't arrive to the same passion as a player like Beckham does, but I'm here to help D.C. on the attack and that is going to be my goal," Emilio said through an interpreter.

Although United has been one of MLS's highest-scoring clubs in recent years, it has lacked a physically imposing target forward to complement Moreno's stylish play and playmaker Christian Gomez's ingenuity.

"He's big, strong, he's dynamic, he works very hard defensively," United technical director Dave Kasper said. "He has all the qualities that we feel it takes to be successful in our team and in our league."

Emilio grew up in a Brazilian town in Sao Paulo state and, at age 18, joined Cologne in the German Bundesliga before moving to Aachen in Germany. He returned to Brazil in 2001 and, a year later, moved to Honduras, where he became one of that league's most prolific scorers with Real EspaƱa and then Olimpia, compiling 91 goals in four years. He also spent a half-year in the Mexican second division.

"Someone has to finish off those chances, and we brought him in here to score goals," Soehn said.

United first expressed interest in Emilio three years ago, but decided to pursue Gomez instead. Gomez went on to become MLS's most valuable player last season.

Emilio is scheduled to make his United debut against his former team, Olimpia, in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinals next month in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

"It's a big challenge for me to come here," he said. "It's a new challenge. I wanted this opportunity. I'm ready for it and I can't wait to start."

United Note: Kasper said the club is getting close on deals for other South American players but "at the end of the day, it has to be a good long-term signing. We're not going to rush and make a quick decision."

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